Keynote Blog - Anna Kirah - Day 1

Wow!  What a day, I am quite exhausted after so many interesting talks and conversations!  I thought about motivation and UX all day long and was inspired by the quality of all the presentations and talks I heard!

At breakfast, I sat next to Everett McKay and his wife.  What a coincidence, we worked at Microsoft at the same time at headquarters!  He was a commuter between the east and west coast and he impressed me with his developer and UX Design competencies.  I have to pick up his book as it could prove useful in bridging the gaps between developers and designers in my own company.


The official day started with the keynote by Matias Duarte.  Before Matias began, who would guess that I would sit right next to the other Norwegian at the conference (no, I did not know her from before—but she has a magnificant job in one of our digital newspapers).   While I agree with Matias that we, who work in the field of UX, have a calling for making the world a better place, I disagree with his point that we are not saving lives.  A better experience can and does save lives depending on where we work (health services, emergency services, security services, transportation services, etc).  My work with Design Without Borders is definitively about saving lives and it is a primary motivating factor for being on the board and advising projects in Africa. I enjoyed Matias´ provocative challenges for both now and the future:  1) The era of motion design and animation design 2) The end of Mobile, it is all about people and 3) computers will be taking the UX job away from us---pointing to the fact that computers are already taking on a good deal of our creative work.

From there, during the break, I ran in to Ted Boren and was ever so pleased to see him again---we caught up and had a marvelous chat!

I attended User-Centered Government from 11-12.  What an amazing well thought out presentation of GOV.UK which is considered to be the most influential redesign in Europe, we all bow to the amazing work they have done and are doing and their willingness to share their experiences in transforming government to user-centeredness.  Yet, it is time for me to take up my first passion and motivation for being in the field of experience design.  I do not believe in users,  I do not like the term and avoid it as often as I can.  Why?  Because it is a term that we put on people, people who may or may not use the services or products we provide.  In the commercial world, the easiest way to increase marketshare is to understand people who are NOT using

our services/products or who refuse to use them.  If we understand the aspirations and motivations of people in their everyday lives, we can create meaningful, relevant, useful and desirable services/products for them and with them!

This brings me to the next talk I attended from 1:30-2:30 pm.  Bill Gribbons and Experience Inspired Innovation.  He spoke around the need of reshaping our thinking and was a delightful story teller.  And as he told his stories, I was thinking of my frustrations during the day which were around experience design:

This morning I got up, got dressed and went out of my hotel room only to decide I needed a sweater in order not to freeze.  I tried to open my room and realised my cardkey was no longer working.  I went downstairs, stood in line to speak with reception and was told not to have my cardkey near other credit cards or my mobile phone.  I did not have time to get a sweater, having waited in line for 10 minutes and froze until lunch time.  At lunch, I went to the counter and waited again another 10 minutes and this time I got 3 card keys.  The first one worked and I got my sweater.  Only when I went back up at a break the same thing happened all over again and each time I go up now, I wait 10 minutes to have my card reactivated.  By the way,  I have not had my keycards close to my mobile phone but they are obviously unhappy with some form of magnetization around me.  Why is this relevant?  I kept thinking WHY would a hotel use a system that is KNOWN to be at fault, which is KNOWN to be sensitive to magnets, credit cards and mobile phones?  I have not had this problem for ages and I travel quite a bit, so I could not help think that they are not so concerned with  the "user" experience of their hotel guests.  On the other hand, this is the bane of being in the field of experience design, we see the possiblities of improvement in so many services and we ask continuously the question:  WHY do they do what they do and is it possible to find a better more meaningful solution that is not cutting in to the bottom line?.  It is in the nature of UX people :-).

Bill Gribbons also asked us a question:  Why are we so bad at selling ourselves?  I have thought about some answers to this based on my 20 some years experience in the field---but as I listened to my fellow conference attendees and to the speakers of the day, I could not help cheering on the inside and the outside for what I deem a major change in the UX world---both the embracing of new methodologies within the discipline and also the embracing of a new mindset that includes involving ourselves throughout the design and development process of meaningful and relevant products and services.

Another noteworthy session was The Future of UX!  All the speakers were magnificant, inspiring and entertaining.  It was definitely food for thought and they point to the importance of cross-disciplinary work.  I realize that time was a limiting factor, however, I missed a focus on how the internet crosses borders that we can not cross and felt it was a bit ethnocentric to the classes who use the internet daily and perhaps forgot the classes who have never seen a computer, never seen a mobile phone---yes, these people exist and the consequences of the digital divide are growing.  I also think that transparency and the democratization of innovation could have been more touched upon---I will try to weave these thoughts in to the closing keynote.

My all time favorite has to have been Michael Bechinie and the Six Factors of Successful UX Projects.  It was one of the first times I felt that someone had gotten in to my brain and reorganized my thoughts in a meaningful and relevant way.  I realize that he was not focusing on any specific methods, but setting a framework, a context and a mindset for being able to be successful in the practices of UX.  I recognized my own way of doing things and how important it is to work strategically on any project which comes our way. His six factors, for those of you who were not present:  1) Define a well-tailored project 2) Use the power of social intelligence (dealing with politics and culture within an organization) 3) Have good arguments for UX activities 4) Capitalize on UX Results (short and longterm goals and achievements) 5) Use promoters to overcome resistance (I use the words ambassadors or advocates) and 6) Gain insight through project retrospectives:  observe-learn-create new and improved UX activities  

I had a lovely talk with Filip Healy today, one of the sponsors of UXPA (Amberlight).  I have known Filip for many years now and just loved meeting up with him again.  We spoke mostly about our responsibility as UX practitioners.  Do we think about our responsibilities and the consequences of the products and services we put out to the world?  Is there a way to define "good" and "evil"?  Are we helping our customers understand what they are proposing or doing and the effects and consequences their services and products might have?  I was unable to attend the Ethical Dilemmas  in UX session today---I would love it if Bill Albert, Cory Lebson, Donna Tedesco, Elisa del Galdo-Miles, Kara Defrias, Richard Bellaver or Thyra Rauch would find me tomorrow (I will try to seek them out or seek out someone who attended their session) so that we could engage a little in this ever so important topic!

The evening ended with a wonderful reception and I loved the beautiful icework!

And now, I sit and try to sort through all that I have heard today.  I am thinking about the evolution of UX in the period I have been working in experience design---I am thinking of what inspired me today---I am thinking of what I missed hearing today if these things are in the minds of us at all.

I look forward to tomorrow and have high expectations based on the quality and content of today! Thank you all for an incredibly inspiring day!